Jackie Tegart (Liberal Party) Answers Health Care Questions

Jackie Tegart (BC Liberal Party) provided the following answers to our Health Care Questions:

1. Over the past ten years, rural B.C. communities have experienced a gradual erosion of health services and reduced accessibility to timely health care. Acute doctor shortages, scheduled closures of emergency departments, increased waitlist times, cutbacks in community nursing services, and difficulties with transportation to specialized services in regional centres are indicative of a health care system unable to meet the needs of rural patients.
If you are elected to the legislature in the 2013 provincial elections, what will you and your party do to reverse this trend and improve accessibility for rural residents?

Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts and work done by the BC Liberals. 
As a Council member for the Village of Ashcroft, I certainly have first hand knowledge of the challenges regarding health services faced by small, rural communities. I hope I will have an opportunity to meet with you and your group to discuss this very important issue over the course of the campaign. 
I recognize that there are times when providing the health care that people expect and rely on can be a challenge.  Working to ensure that my constituents have access to the services they need will be a priority for me if elected.That said, I am proud of the accomplishments that have been made to our health care system under the BC Liberals.

I was pleased to see the recent announcement of the Rural Physicians for British Columbia incentive program, which will help attract doctors to 17 communities across BC, including Princeton, by providing an additional $100,000 per doctor in exchange for a commitment of service of at least three years.

We also committed $10 million to provide financial assistance of up to $200,000 a year for rural, fee-for-service physicians who commit to ensure reliable public access to emergency services is maintained at their local hospital.This is in addition to other incentive programs to encourage physicians to set up, practise and reside in rural BC, including:

·         Rural Recruitment Incentive Fund for full-time physicians to relocate.

·         Rural Recruitment Contingency to assist with recruiting costs.

·         Rural Retention Program for physicians who practice and reside in rural communities.

·         Rural Education funding to support ongoing professional development.

·         Rural GP and specialist locum programs to provide temporary physician support to enable physicians in small communities to take time off for vacations/professional development.

·         The Northern Isolation Travel Assistance Outreach Program to help physicians travel to and provide services in rural and isolated communities.

2. In February 2012, Kim Carter, Provincial Ombudsperson, released Public Report No. 47, The Best of Care: Getting It Right for Seniors in British Columbia (Part 2). In her report she presents 143 Findings and makes 176 Recommendations for improving care for seniors in our province.
What steps would you and your party take to implement the recommendations in this report?

In response to the recommendations from the Ombudsperson, the BC Liberal Government launched a Seniors Action Plan last year. The plan outlines steps that will make it easier for seniors and their families to access and understand the system, and steps to strengthen protections for vulnerable seniors.This plan was created by feedback from seniors, their families and caregivers.

The focus of the Seniors Action Plan is on continuing to improve the system of care in addition to initiatives to support healthy aging and helping seniors remain independent for as long as possible. Highlights include the establishment of a Seniors Advocate as well as $15 million for the United Way to expand non-medical home support, and $1.4 million to the BC Association of Community Response Networks to prevent elder abuse and neglect.

3. Provincial health authorities seem to have lost the trust of the people they serve.
What action will you and your party take to reestablish that trust, making our health authorities more accountable and more responsive to the needs of rural communities?

Government sets the overall direction and financial framework for health care in BC, but it is up to the local health authorities to make the vast majority of operating decisions at a local level.  While I believe that this is generally a system that works well, I think that we all know there are situations where things get overlooked, or perhaps were simply not looked at in the correct light.  This is why I believe it is important to have a strong MLA who will listen to the concerns of constituents, and advocate on their behalf when necessary.

If elected, I commit to building a strong relationship with the leadership of Interior Health, because I believe that it is through respectful dialogue and strong communication that the best decisions get made.

4. The demand for rural doctors exceeds the supply. In competition with each other, rural communities have resorted to providing incentives such as subsidized housing, paid for by local governments, businesses, or private citizens. To be able to compete in the resulting “bidding war”, rural communities are now in a position where incentives are a requirement.
What is your party’s response to this situation?

As mentioned above, I do recognize that recruiting doctors to rural areas can often be a challenge.  It is important that communities work in partnership with the local health authority to find ways to attract the doctors that we need.  I applaud the community leaders of the Town of Princeton for the work they have done to date.  If elected as MLA, I look forward to lending my support and advocacy as well.

5. Rural communities in British Columbia share similar health care concerns. However, individual health needs and the way in which they should be addressed vary from community to community.
As a candidate in the provincial election, what do you consider to be the most important health care issues in your constituency? And how would you address them?

I think that the single largest health issue that we all face is the rising cost of health care, and the need to find ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.  Since 2001, the Ministry of Health budget has doubled to $16.5 billion per year, and we are responding to growing needs by committing an additional $2.4 billion over the next 3 years.  

However, we are also pursuing innovative new approaches to medicine that can help “bend the cost curve” while improving outcomes.A good example of this approach is our commitment to nurse practitioners. In 2005, we started the first program in B.C. to train Nurse Practitioners, and currently there are approximately 250 nurse practitioners registered to practice in BC.  Following this, in May 2012, our government announced a $22.2 million initiative to fund 190 new nurse practitioner positions over the next three years. This initiative will provide opportunities for existing nurse practitioners who have been unable to secure a position, as well as ensure there are opportunities present for newly-qualified nurse practitioners graduating in the future.  BC is also only the second jurisdiction in Canada to have qualified nurse practitioners admit and discharge patients from hospitals.

6. On March 14th, the provincial government passed the Seniors Advocate Act. Although this is a positive step for senior citizens in British Columbia, the advocate position is not established as an independent office of the legislature and cannot be the effective critical watchdog that it needs to be.
If you are elected to the legislature would you support an independent seniors advocacy position with real authority to act on behalf of seniors?

The BC Liberals have placed a high priority on improving services for seniors. We are following through on our commitment to establish an Office of the Seniors’ Advocate, which will make British Columbia the first jurisdiction in Canada to establish a position of this kind.

The Seniors Advocate will function as a part of government, which will allow the Advocate to work collaboratively with different ministries.  However, as a Statutory Officer, the Advocate will also have strong statutory powers.  Anyone who is concerned that a statutory officer won’t have enough influence should look at some of the other statutory officers in BC, such as the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall. Other good examples are the auditor general for local government, the chief coroner and the comptroller general.

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